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Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Australian Open Tennis Day 10 Picks 2017 (January 25th)

This has been a tournament probably most enjoyed by long-term fans of tennis as some of the veteran players who dominated proceedings from yesteryear have managed to make their way through the draw and into the Semi Final.

There is no doubt that both Venus Williams and Roger Federer have surpassed all expectations when this Australian Open began ten days ago and they are going to receive the lion share of the support when they take on Coco Vandeweghe and Stan Wawrinka in their respective Semi Final matches. Both Venus and Federer have been in really good form throughout the time at Melbourne Park, but both are going to have huge challenges to overcome if they are going to play in the first Grand Slam Final of the 2017 season.

As impressive as those two players were, Vandeweghe and Wawrinka were no less as they dominated their own Quarter Final matches. Vandeweghe was an underdog before dismantling Garbine Muguruza and Wawrinka made light work of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga with a straight sets win that was easier than I anticipated it would be.

Both have some mental obstacles to overcome in the Semi Final- Vandeweghe admired Venus Williams as a youngster growing up and now has to face her idol, while Stan is all too well aware of Roger Federer and needs to put his friendship aside and bring his best to the court.

Before all of that, we have to complete the Semi Final line up and that means four more Quarter Finals have been scheduled for Wednesday and Day 10 of the Australian Open. There are some very impressive matches to be played with the stand out ones being the Johanna Konta versus Serena Williams and Milos Raonic versus Rafael Nadal ones.

All four Quarter Finals on Tuesday ended in straight sets, but these four look like they might be more competitive than that.

After Day 4 of the Australian Open, the picks had been at - 11 Units and with a poor - 17% Yield and it looked like I was one of many who had been struggling with making picks for the tournament. In the next five days things have turned completely around and another 3-1 day on Tuesday means the picks are in a very strong position to end this tournament on a high.

There is still work to do to make sure this is an event that has a positive ending, but I am happy with the manner in which things have turned around over the last five days. Hopefully that is the kind of momentum that can see the last ten matches at the Australian Open in the men's and women's Singles draws keep the winners coming and go into February with a strong start to the 2017 season.

Grigor Dimitrov - 1.5 sets v David Goffin: The first four Quarter Finals played on Tuesday all ended in straight sets, but it would be something of a surprise if all four on Wednesday ended in the same manner. However I do think the favourite in this match, Grigor Dimitrov, can get the better of David Goffin in three or four sets though and I will back the Bulgarian to make it to another Grand Slam Semi Final.

The opening to 2017 has followed on from the improved performances from the back end of 2016 as Dimitrov picked up a big title in Brisbane where he beat three players inside the top ten of the World Rankings. You cannot underestimate the amount of confidence that will give any player and Dimitrov has played well at the Australian Open where he has dropped just two sets in the first four matches he has won.

At the same time it has to be accepted that David Goffin represents the toughest test Dimitrov would have faced so far in this Grand Slam. Goffin is beginning to become more of a threat at the Grand Slam level and he has had some impressive wins in the tournament although the Belgian had not been firing on all cylinders prior to this event.

His performances this week should have given him confidence, but Goffin has to overcome the fact he is 0-4 in the head to head with Dimitrov too. That includes a four set defeat at the US Open in 2014 and although he is much improved since then, he is also facing Dimitrov at a moment when he is playing at a very high level.

I imagine both players will have a number of chances to break serve, but I do think Dimitrov has been serving a little better than Goffin. The latter didn't look that good for the first two sets against Dominic Thiem and could have been 2-0 down in sets which would have been a huge mountain to climb and I think Dimitrov will have the edge at the big moments in this one. I do think Dimitrov will come through and I imagine it will be in three or four sets once he begins to get a read of the Goffin serve and just exerts enough pressure to grind him down.

Rafael Nadal-Milos Raonic under 42.5 total games: When these players met in Brisbane, I backed Rafael Nadal to get the better of Milos Raonic and for a set and a half the Spaniard was dominant. He lost his way from there and was beaten in three sets by Raonic although the layers are expecting Nadal to earn a measure of revenge by beating him this big Quarter Final.

Both players will believe the winner is going to be a significant favourite to reach the Final on Sunday and from there they have every chance of winning the Grand Slam title. With that in mind there has to be some nerves in play in the match, especially early on, as they could easily feel this is an unexpected opportunity in front of them to win the title and perhaps one they won't better again.

Nadal has been playing some fantastic tennis to reach the Quarter Final and has to feel confident that he can have success against Raonic who had struggled at times against Roberto Bautista Agut in the Fourth Round. Gilles Simon was another who had more success on the return of the Raonic serve than anticipated and Nadal has to feel he can get himself into a couple of those games to breakthrough.

He has also been serving pretty well and I guess I am leaning towards Nadal being a little too good for Raonic, but I think each set played is going to have a couple of key points which could easily swing the momentum the other way. Instead I like the total number of games and looking for this match to not surpass the number the layers have set.

Of course if the match goes five sets, it is going to surpass this number. However matches between Raonic and Nadal haven't had too many swings previously and the way each player plays means breaks are not going to be uncommon. Single breaks could be enough to secure a 6-4, 6-3 kind of set and this match ending in four sets either way might be good enough to stay under this number.

Both players have had four set wins this week and none of those have surpassed the number set here and I think the layers are perhaps expecting tie-breakers sets getting to 5-5 more than I am. Both Nadal and Raonic are capable of winning and losing sets with a double break against them too and I will look for no more than four sets and the total games to stay under the total.

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni + 4.5 games v Karolina Pliskova: The women's draw looks very open even as we have reached the final five matches in the Singles tournament, but Karolina Pliskova has to feel she can get back to another Grand Slam Semi Final having reached the Final of the US Open. She could not have hoped for a better Quarter Final compared with the other players left in the draw, although overlooking Mirjana Lucic-Baroni would be a big mistake.

The veteran who reached the Wimbledon Semi Final in the last century has had a memorable tournament and she can certainly pose some problems for Pliskova. Lucic-Baroni has been serving well in the tournament and that can put pressure on Pliskova who still is not as strong a returner as some of the other top players on the WTA Tour.

Of course Pliskova's own serve is going to be a potent weapon for her and is going to give Lucic-Baroni a tough time to get into those service games.

With both players serving as well as they have, this has all the makings of a tight match and that has seen Lucic-Baroni's price on the handicap come down from the opening price that was offered. Serving well could also produce another tight match between these players with the three matches in 2015 all being highly competitive.

Pliskova actually lost more points in the last two matches but managed to win in three sets in the last of those and I can see a situation where there is little between them again. Her opponent is playing with 'house money' and Lucic-Baroni has not betrayed any nerves in her wins to get through to the Quarter Final which makes her very dangerous.

I do think Pliskova will eventually prevail, but taking the games with Lucic-Baroni looks the right side in this Quarter Final in what could be the closest match of all four being played.

Serena Williams - 2.5 games v Johanna Konta: This looks like the kind of match that could determine the winner of the women's Australian Open as both Johanna Konta and Serena Williams have looked very capable of going all of the way. There are a couple of fearsome players left who will have something to say about that, but the winner of this match will have the confidence of winning a match of this magnitude to take into the remaining matches of the event.

I have made my feelings about Konta very clear on this blog for over eighteen months now- that isn't to say she hasn't surprised me too as I would not have imagined a situation where she would be as short a price to beat Serena Williams in a Grand Slam as she is here.

Konta was a Semi Finalist last season and won the title in Sydney while preparing for the tournament in Melbourne and the form she has displayed has been very, very impressive. Nine straight wins without dropping a set is impressive at any time, but Konta has beaten the likes of Eugenie Bouchard, Agnieszka Radwanska, Caroline Wozniacki and Ekaterina Makarova in that run which is impressive.

None of those players are as good as Serena Williams, although there have been some doubts about the fitness of the American and whether she is really firing at full health. Serena has had some impressive wins this week, but she struggled against Barbora Strycova and will have to serve a lot better if she is going to win this match.

The way Konta has been serving makes her very dangerous, but this time she is playing someone with the power to put her on the back foot immediately. If Konta can survive those early shots across the bow, she will feel she has the consistency and power to win her fair share of rallies, but this match feels like it depends a lot on what Serena Williams is sending off her own racquet.

It won't be the huge upset the British media will make out if Konta is able to defeat Serena, but I think the latter is going to use all of her experience and just have a little too much in this Quarter Final. I expect the Serena power is going to prove to be a little too telling in this Quarter Final and she can progress with a 7-5, 6-4 win.

MY PICKS: Grigor Dimitrov - 1.5 Sets @ 2.00 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal-Milos Raonic Under 42.5 Total Games @ 1.83 William Hill (2 Units)
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni + 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Serena Williams - 2.5 Games @ 1.85 Sporting Bet (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 42-33, + 15.46 Units (145 Units Staked, + 10.66% Yield)

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